Opinion: True Crime: Hong Kong what could have been…

Or, another Hard Boiled cop almost hits the means streets of Hong Kong. It’s a funny thing, the old games industry. You never can pick which titles will bite the dust. With so crap released why did a title that held such promise get thrown by the wayside? Literally a day before the announcement, I had a look at what was proposed for True Crime: Hong Kon, and liked the direction it was headed in.

Bolting home, I wrote up this piece for a magazine I was co-editing, only to receive the disastrous news that the title had been axed. So this preview now became a “what if” piece, as I can only muse and speculate over what might have been…

As a champion of the underdog, I’ve always felt that the True Crime franchise didn’t get much of a fair shake. Drowned out by the Grand Theft Auto juggernaut, it was Saints Row before there was a Saints Row (and I mean that as a compliment); all too often fobbed off as a clone with many barely peeking beneath the surface to see what it had to offer.

With revenge-based plots, deep voice talent and near-endless side missions, it was one of the first to tackle the whole morality issue (good cop versus bad cop) and was way ahead of its time. Its been a while since True Crime: New York’s 2006 release, but this reboot with a hungry new development team and a grittier attitude has True Crime: Hong Kong looking better than ever; just don’t dismiss it as GTA: Hong Kong. There’s a whole lot more going on in Kowloon Bay than answering your mobile phone and bowling.

Revenge is a dish best served… with soy sauce

After leaving Hong Kong to escape a life of violence, the star of our show, Wei Shen, enters the local police force of the breezy old burg with the Golden Gate. San Francisco has long been home to many a violent hero cop, with a certain chap by the name of ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan coming to mind, so you couldn’t ask for a better training ground. Fate, however, is a cruel mistress and has other plans in mind.

After receiving the tragic news of his sister’s death at Triad hands, Wei abandons his surrogate American lifestyle and returns to his homeland with one solitary thought in mind: revenge. Revenge against those criminal bottom feeders that robbed him of his sibling, righteous retribution on those that dared harm a single hair on her precious little head and the infliction of a serious dose of payback in a flurry of blood, back-fists and bullets.

Undercover brother

To this end, Wei is left with a single option: infiltration. Starting as a low-level thug, you’ll slowly worm your way up the food chain to uncover those behind your sister’s demise. And once the head of the snake is exposed, lop it off with gusto; or bring them to justice for those soft-cocks out there. As you work your way through the Triad organisation you’ll be constantly thrown into problematic situations that will test your morality.

Do you gain the favour of your new gangland playmates at the expense of innocents, or do you hold on to the ideals of the law and stand on shaky ground? The reputation system makes a return, with the consequences of your actions reflected on your in-game face, and while details are sketchy if this will be represented on your actual face or some kind of meter, you can bet there’ll be some tight spots you’ll need to wiggle you way out of, with the solution never cut and dried.

A Bullet in the Head

Besides your mission of making the Triad’s pay, True Crime: Hong Kong offers more distractions than a week in Vegas with a platinum American Express card. As you delve into the shades of grey, you’ll be working relationships on both sides of the law, questioning snitches and brutally interrogating suspects with layered unarmed combat, complete with grappling, contextual assaults, disarming manoeuvres and even finishing moves. The main plot is filled with cinematic moments to leave you slack jawed with a pool of saliva on the ground. But all work and no play makes Wei something something…

Blow off some steam at a Fight Club, or grab a ride and get street racing, and if that doesn’t float your boat there’s free-running chases, safe-cracking heists and ample hijacking jobs for the Triads.  Maybe you want to clear some paperwork and work an old cold case, or make a little song and dance about it and hit a karaoke club. Hell, why not take a walk on the wild side and indulge in a cockfight or some human bowling, whatever the hell that is. The hardest thing to do will be to stay on point as a shiny new object comes along and distracts you from the task at hand.

It’s all in the reflexes

While United Front Games is not building a world of Just Cause 2 proportions, Hong Kong has been lovingly recreated with a healthy dash of artistic license. The cityscape looks absolutely amazing, complete with cramped streets, overwhelming neon and crowded markets, the entire playground is teeming with life. But it’s not just the world that’s bristling with personality.

A veritable who’s who of cinema have put their hand up to breathe life into the major players. Veteran Tom Wilkinson looks to represent the old “British” Hong Kong, George Cheung’s laundry list of accomplishments in gaming voice work cements his position, James “Big Trouble in Little China” Hong never disappoints and Dustin “ I’ve done heaps of other shit besides 21 Jump Street” Nguyen all have some serious cred, but none compare to the legendary Sammo Hung.

Well Hung

A true prince of the Eastern movie industry, his portly demeanour belied the speed and flexibility beneath, with his prowess on par with icon (and often on screen cohort) Jackie Chan. The actor turned producer has been credited with reinvigorating the genre and is known for his amazing fight choreography as seen in the recent Donnie Yen vehicle, Ip Man. He adds a lot more weight to the project and I sincerely hoped he’d have the chance to leave some impression on the hand-to-hand component, but alas it was not meant to be.

True Crime: Hong Kong looked to hit with the force of a roundhouse to the face, but instead got laid out by a sucker punch. Choosing to cut a different path from its open world brethren by offering countless side activities, moral ambiguity and a deeper focus on martial arts in one of Asia’s most electrifying locales seemed like the ticket, but now we’ll never know.

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.
  • Jimmie L Simpson

    Excellent piece on True Crime Hong Kong. A salute to what could have been. Ready……Aim…..Fire!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks mate. I had a major hard-on for this one and am beyond gutted it slipped through the cracks.

  • Anonymous

    I was really looking forward to True Crime: Hong Kong, I loved the 2006 True Crime: New York. I can’t believe Activision cancelled it because it wasn’t “good enough” for them, and instead focused on a abused cod series. I hope in the future company picks up this game and finish’s it. Loved the article Dave 10/10

  • Altminpost

    Hi, great artikel, but im not giving up on true crime hong kong yet ;-) i belive since the game is almost finished, there is stilla chance for it to come out

  • Alpheon

    You sure True Crime: Hong Kong’s dead? I just looked on their official site and it was updated with a new preview like, 2 weeks ago. O.o When did they announce it was cut? =[

  • Alpheon

    You sure True Crime: Hong Kong’s dead? I just looked on their official site and it was updated with a new preview like, 2 weeks ago. O.o When did they announce it was cut? =[

  • Alpheon

    Wait, nevermind XD That sucks =[ I was really looking forward to it =[

  • Alpheon

    Wait, nevermind XD That sucks =[ I was really looking forward to it =[